Smile For Me (Switch) Review

Creepy and Weird Like Only An Indie Can Do

By Alex Orona

It’s no surprise that I’m a big fan of indie games in that they are weird in ways most triple A games cannot get away with. They take risks and swing for the fences, some more successful than others. With Smile for Me, we get a fantastically weird combination of brainwashing, light hearted cheeriness with a dash of jump scare horror. The classification of point and click adventure doesn’t do this oddity justice so let’s dig into what makes this game such a peculiar gem. 

On the outset, you are presented with the environment known as the Habitat, a living facility for those sad and destitute. A wayward home for the depressed, ruled over by Dr Habit who promises a big event that will make everyone smile for him. In this way, the premise comes off very creepy and cult-like. People with real problems that are being taken advantage of by some mysterious savior. You, as the amnesiac silent protagonist, find yourself with the keen ability to listen to peoples’ problems and come up with solutions. 

For the most part, that ends up being the loop of the game. Listening to a character’s woes, and finding solutions via the environment, mini games or within other characters. As you progressively make people happy, new areas of the habitat are unlocked with more characters to figure out. The main hindrance comes in the form of a day night cycle that, on its face, seems like no big deal, but staying out past curfew can lead to some more dire circumstances. Specifically with some unsettling messages from a live action puppet representing Dr. Habit, and some shaky cam footage that leads to a jumpscare. 

Otherwise, the character interactions are engaging enough to want to keep solving puzzles and completing new goals. Each member of the cast stands out as unique cartoon-like personalities but displayed in cardboard cutout standee form. The puzzles are rarely complicated, though I will say that roughly 25% of them felt incomprehensible unless you scoured every inch of the environment. In those instances, there is a built-in hint system with a fortune teller, but it didn’t solve every stumble I had. 

By pushing through the occasional mind bogglingly built puzzle, you are rewarded with a satisfying narrative.  All the players had their own story arcs, including the mysterious Dr. Habit. Getting bits of pieces of each individual story while also adding to the overarching plot makes for a gripping narrative that pulled me along the relatively short run time of 4 hours. It never felt like it outstayed its welcome, and the story resolution felt earned if not highly telegraphed. 

Smile For Me is a bizarre little indie title that tells a short but sweet story. Its use of multimedia and genre spanning elements was a delight to experience and one I’d recommend to anyone asking. Outside of some relatively poorly explained puzzles, this game is a tight concise package of exciting, experimental  ideas that I’ve yet to see anything like. While it may not be my favorite game of the year, it’s something that will stick to me as unique and without equal. Check into the Habitat and you’ll be sure to smile. 


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